Singapore is certainly no stranger to being sensitive about so called “foreign interference” in our domestic affairs. It is after all in name of the foreign bogeyman that our former Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) has sued numerous foreign publications for commenting on the domestic affairs of our nation state. LKY had also used the alleged threat of foreign interference to justify the attempted arrest of former Law Society President Francis Seow.
While LKY has passed away, the legacy of fear for “foreign” influences would appear to be as strong as ever with Senior Minister of State for Law, Edwin Tong citing fears of false online falsehoods from “overseas” as a justification for new regulations to curb online activities.
Given Singapore’s apparent sensitivities to “foreign” influences, it is rather surprising that they have not applied the same consideration to the affairs of other countries. As the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led Singapore government bristles at every comment about its internal affairs from foreigners, it seems happy to comment or tacitly endorse comments about the affairs of other countries made publicly and openly by people who are affiliated with it. Let’s take our former Ambassador-at-Large, Bilahari Kausikan (Kausikan) as an example. Ever the controversial commentator, his latest critique of our closest neighbour, Malaysia’s internal affairs would definitely constitute the “foreign interference in domestic affairs” that Singapore would hate. Why then is Kausikan so quick to wax lyrical about other countries? Has he not heard of “quid pro quo”?
How can we expect others to be circumspect about our affairs if we do not accord others the same courtesy? Is this not somewhat an exercise of double standards and hypocrisy?
One can argue that Kausikan does not represent the government of Singapore – not in any official capacity anyway. He is after all, no longer a diplomat paid for by the state. However, given his past role and the public nature of his comments, is it possible to suppose that his comments are not tacitly endorsed by the Singapore government? Surely, if the government of Singapore did not approve of his comments. they would have censured him by now? After all, the Singapore government certainly does not have the reputation of being tolerant of behaviours that it does not approve of.
The Singapore government’s apparent sensitivities for foreign interference would hold a lot more weight if it didn’t have apparent loose canons like Kausikan muddying the waters.